10 fascinating facts about Holt
PUBLISHED: 13:18 06 March 2018 | UPDATED: 13:36 06 March 2018
Archant Norfolk 2015
An obelisk, a festival, a heritage railway and a host of owls to lead you through the town are just some of the highlights of historic, picturesque Holt
1. Spout Hills
Just outside the town centre lie Spout Hills, 14 acres of meadow, ponds, heath and woodland and a haven for wildlife. It is named for the natural spring which flows into a walled pond and has been providing water for the people of Holt for centuries.
Where once Victorian waterworks machinery pumped water into the town, now the pretty oasis of wetlands and paths is home to marsh orchids and water mint and, at this time of year, blossom-covered trees. It is looked after by Holt Town Council and a team of volunteers.
2. An obelisk topped by a pineapple and some dodgy distances
The High Street obelisk was once part of a pair of the gateposts from Melton Constable Park, given to the town in the 18th century. (The other went to the town of Dereham.) They include information about the distances to various places, but measured from Melton Constable, not Holt. The neighbouring lamp-post, given to the town to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, was nicknamed Blind Sam as a sporadic gas supply meant it was often not lit.
3. Holt Country Park
Horses once raced where families walk and play in Holt Country Park. Entry to the country park is free, apart from a small parking charge, and there is a visitor centre, play equipment, regular art and environmental events and activities, an orienteering course and plenty of pretty paths with lots of wildlife to spot along the way.
4. The Holt Owl Trail
Get a flying start to your tour of Holt by following the owl trail from the High Street. The 24 plaques, set in walls and pavements last year, reveal the stories behind some of Holt’s most interesting past and present buildings and inhabitants.
Legend has it that some Holt men caught an owl and put it in the town pound for stray animals – whereupon it flew away. Follow the owl for lots of Holt wisdom.
5. By George it’s architecturally impressive
Much of Holt was rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1708, adhering to some pretty stringent architectural rules. Georgian architects worked out the proportions of buildings so that they were related, creating today’s harmonious look.
6. The end of the Poppy Line
The North Norfolk Railway runs from Sheringham to Holt, finishing around a mile from the town centre.
7. Child prodigy
It was in Holt that the general public first saw Kieron Williamson’s astonishing paintings. At his second exhibition, at the Picturecraft Galley in Lees Yard in 2009, watercolours by the seven-year-old went on show and sold out in minutes. Kieron still regularly exhibits in Holt and his paintings are snapped up by collectors around the world. Kieron follows in prestigious brush-strokes, as artists have visited and painted Holt for centuries and the town now has several art galleries.
8. Holt Festival
The 10th Holt Festival runs from July 21 to 29 and will include drama, music, art, literature and a children’s festival and festival fringe. Big names who took part in previous festivals include Michael Palin, Suzi Quatro, Melvyn Bragg, The Stranglers, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, Joanna Trollope, Kate Adie, Jennie Éclair, Sir John Hurt and Julie Christie.
9. The Yards
Where York has its Shambles and Norwich its Lanes, Holt has its Yards. The pretty little alleys and squares, with names including Appleyard, Chapel Yard, and Hoppers Yard are now home to tearooms, gift shops, galleries, and independent businesses selling everything from books to groceries.
10. Gresham’s (and grasshoppers)
Sir John Gresham founded his school in the middle of Holt in 1555. He had been Lord Mayor of London and persuaded the Fishmongers Company of London to finance and manage the school. More than 460 years later the school still has strong links with the City of London Fishmongers. On Thursday, March 15, in the Fishmongers Recital Hall at the school, Charlotte Crawley and Simon Kinder will give a talk about Sir John Gresham, his school and tracking down a portrait of him. More details from www.theholtsociety.org
Former pupils include composer Benjamin Britten, poet WH Auden, inventor James Dyson, rugby players Tom and Ben Youngs and actor Olivia Colman.
The Gresham’s crest includes a grasshopper and a legend tells of the founder of the family being discovered, as an abandoned newborn baby in long grass in the north Norfolk village of Gresham in the 1200s. A noisy grasshopper, presumably even more noisy than a crying newborn, alerted passersby.